I had the opportunity to poke my head into the Keene Arts Center in Keene the other day which prompted me to e-mail the owner and get the whole story on this transformed Methodist church which has been serving as art gallery and movie playhouse for the past six months or so.
I'd been hearing various stories about the owner and the intended use of the building but always best to go right to the source.
Malcolm MacDougall answered my e-mail right away and followed up with a phone call which turned into an informal interview.
Malcolm was easy to talk to and eager to share his vision for the old church on Route 73 in the Town of Keene.
Malcolm begins by telling me that he and his wife are building a home in the area. When they saw the church was for sale they put their home plans on hold for a while to fulfill another dream.
They have always had "the romantic idea of having a movie theater some place," says Malcolm. "We're just ten years ahead of our schedule." The couple bought the church a year ago (January 2012).
Malcolm is a filmmaker from Westchester, NY. (saltpondcreative.com) He knew he'd be able to start up the art gallery this summer on rather short notice because his son is an artist whose work has been prominently displayed in New York City and elsewhere and between his son's work and local artist David Horner's work, he knew he could fill the space with fine art. In his words, "a nice way to invigorate the space."
As to the movie theater, thanks to caretaker Jake Riggins and equipment loaned out by Fritz Sabbow and Rob Hastings, Malcolm has been able to show movies in the space on Friday and Saturday evenings. The movies are open to the public for a small suggested donation. In addition, there have been some special theme-requested movie nights including some partnerships with The Mountaineer (the outdoor gear store in Keene Valley).
The dream of the owners is for the community to use the structure in pursuit of the arts and that dream is certainly coming to fruition. They are also open to whatever the space may evolve into and invite community members to make suggestions on a regular basis. Last summer, Keene Arts hosted Brazilian jazz and local musician Kevin Stolz. Malcolm is hoping to bring in lectures, live theatre, and is happy to entertain movie requests. He is in touch with Meadowmount School of Music in Lewis, NY, and plans to have students performing classical music in the space this summer.
The multi-use building also hosts yoga classes. It is a wonderful new community life for a beautiful old church building.
The Adirondack mountains have always attracted an eclectic mix of artists and this new addition to the many artistic venues that the area sports continues to contribute to the rebirth of the artist colony in the North Country.
In the meantime, if you find yourself with some time on your hands on a Friday or Saturday evening in Keene you may want to check out what's onscreen at The Playhouse.
Kathleen Recchia has been enjoying the arts in the Adirondacks for about 20 years—both as observer and participant (acting, directing, and producing). She also enjoys cross-country skiing, swimming, juggling, and hosting visitors to the area at her bed & breakfast in Jay.